Erik ‘Killmonger’ Stevens (Michael B. Jordan) saves Tony Stark (Mick Wingert) from an attempted kidnapping in Afghanistan by the Ten Rings criminal organization. Grateful for his rescue, Tony becomes fast friends with Erik, unaware that Erik is playing the long-con in an effort to invade Wakanda and take the thrown as his own.
The difference between you and me is that you can’t see the difference between you and me.Erik ‘Killnmonger’ Stevens
What say you, general?T’Chaka
Power unearned can be a very volatile force.T’Challa
Required MCU Viewings:
- Iron Man: This episode follows many of the story beats from the very first entry in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
- Avengers: Age of Ultron: The scenes featuring Ulysses Klaue (Andy Serkis) are pulled directly from the second Avengers film.
- Black Panther: Killmonger’s quest to avenge his father’s death and claim his rightful place on the throne of Wakanda mirrors his big screen appearance as well.
- Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings: Though not critical to watch for this episode, it does give a good history lesson on the criminal organization responsible for the attempted kidnapping of Tony Stark.
Defining ‘What If…’ Moment – Erik saves Tony:
The beginning of the episode starts out just like the first Iron Man film. However, instead of the Stark tech exploding near Tony and sending shrapnel into his heart, Erik picks up the weapon and discards it, saving Tony and ensuring that he never got captured by the Ten Rings in the first place.
I have to be honest, the structure of these episodes is getting old. We are now on episode 6, and there is no connective thread that is tying these episodes together even though it has become increasingly obvious that the show is definitely moving in that direction. With three episodes left, there is a lot of ground to cover before the season ends. It has become more frustrating than cool that each episode is ending on a cliff hanger and then each new episode has nothing to do with the previous episode. How are we supposed to get invested in these new versions of these characters we have come to love over the past decade?
That’s not to say that this was a bad episode, far from it. Each episode so far has been unique and a fun twist on the established MCU story. We’ve had murder mysteries, horror, tragedies; each episode brings its own flare to the show, and they have all been fun to watch. This episode leans heavily into the corporate espionage/thriller genre, and for the most part it works. And can we just take a moment to appreciate the genius that is Ludwig Goransson’s Black Panther score? It is just fantastically used in this episode.
The question of what happens if Tony Stark never became Iron Man is one that has enormous impact on the MCU. Without Iron Man, the implications are huge. Sure, Director Fury would still be looking into his Avengers Initiative, but Iron Man set the standard for civilian heroes, and without his example, who else would we miss? That specific question wasn’t so much answered in this episode, but it is one worth thinking about.
It was great to have Michael B. Jordan back as one of the most compelling villains the MCU has given us, and he absolutely crushed it in this episode. His motivations are the exact same; he wants revenge for his father’s death and wants to bring the technology and resources of Wakanda to the world to help the suffering of his fellow brothers and sisters. His thirst for power has many casualties–T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman), Tony, Klaue, and Rhodey (Don Cheadle) are all collateral damage in his quest.
So, the question remains. What is the threat that will bring these multiversal heroes together? Will this new Black Panther be on the side of good? Or will he be a villain? With only three episodes left this season, that is a lot of ground to cover, and Marvel has been known to not exactly stick the landing in previous shows. Here’s hoping that changes with this one.
- Actors Reprising MCU Roles:
- Michael B. Jordan – Killmonger
- Jon Favreau – Happy Hogan
- Chadwick Boseman – T’Challa
- Angela Bassett – Queen (and general!) Ramonda
- Danai Guirira – Okoye
- Andy Serkis – Ulysses Klaue
- Don Cheadle – Rhodey
- Paul Bettany – Jarvis
- Leslie Bibb – Christine Everhart
- John Kani – T’Chaka
- New Actors in Existing MCU Roles:
- Kiff VandenHeuvel – Obadiah Stane (replacing Jeff Bridges)
- Beth Hoyt – Pepper Potts (replacing Gwyneth Paltrow)
- Ozioma Akagha – Shuri (replacing Letitia Wright)
- Mick Wingert – Tony Stark (replacing Robert Downey Jr.)
Watching the Watcher:
Though he returns to narrate the episode once again, The Watcher (Jeffrey Wright) does not interfere nor does he interact with any of the characters in this episode.
Changes From the Established Story:
- The most obvious change is that Erik is in Afghanistan and saves Tony from getting kidnapped by the Ten Rings.
- Though Tony eventually finds out that Obadiah Stane is responsible for bankrolling his attempted kidnapping, Stane does not become Iron Monger as he does in the first Iron Man film.
- Because he is saved by Erik and therefore doesn’t have shrapnel trying to enter his heart, Tony never creates the miniaturized reactor and does not become Iron Man.
- Klaue still dies at the hands of Erik, but he doesn’t lose his arm in this universe.
- Assuming there are no Avengers, or at least no Avengers as we have come to know them, the explosion at the UN never happens and T’Chaka does not die (though his son, T’Challa, does die).
- Tony Stark dies at the hands of Erik, not from saving the universe by using the infinity gauntlet.
- Tony appoints Erik as his new Chief of Security, much to the chagrin of Happy (who becomes Chief of Security in Iron Man 3).
- In Black Panther, Erik mentions that he spent time in the Middle East while he was a Navy SEAL officer.
- Tony mentions that the last batch of vibranium was used up “during the war” – referencing the creation of Captain America’s iconic shield.
- Tony’s robot assistant who he affectionately names Dum-E from Iron Man makes an appearance in this episode.
- Rhodey is voiced by Don Cheadle, but during this time in the films, Rhodey was played by Terrance Howard.
- The scene in the beginning with Tony Stark in the back of the Hummer is lifted directly from Iron Man.
- When The Watcher is discussing all of the things this new version of Tony Stark won’t do, we see a recreation of his iconic “I am Iron Man” scene from Avengers: Endgame.
- Erik’s visit to the Ancestral Plane is a mirror image of the scene in Black Panther, where the still-alive T’Challa visits his recently deceased father.
Not a ton of theories this week… just the nagging thought that all of these episodes have to be connected at some point down the line… right?!?
Mark Pereira is a staff writer for Boss Rush Network. He loves all video games, but his top three favorites are Skyward Sword, Super Mario 3D World and Batman: Arkham Asylum. You can find him on Twitter where he’s usually talking about Nintendo, video games, movies, and TV shows.